In the last 80 years Alcoholic Anonymous has been the gold standard in recovery. AA claims a membership of over 2.1 million members. If you are in recovery, you have most defiantly heard more than one person say, “AA saved my life.” There is also a growing swell of alternative options in the sober community. This has caused division among different camps creating a forced feeling that people need to take sides. What happened to “live and let live?” The division is reminiscent of ugly political or religious divides. Can more be done to understand the journey of another? Is it helpful to say “I have my way and you have yours” without taking the time truly understand another person’s path? Is it time to change the paradigm and level the playing field around what it means to do what works?
For simplicities sake, the most basic common ground is not drinking. Having a desire not drink is the “only requirement” for AA and something all people practicing sobriety can agree on. Yet, this can often be a slippery slope as certain groups use identifiers such as alcoholic and addict and newer groups can assert that they are alcohol free. Either way, don’t let this label fool you. The overall message is staying sober.
Building upon the desire to not drink is the relevance of community. It has been said before and will be said again that the opposite to addiction is connection. This seems most obvious in all of the various closely-knit communities that form around diverse traditions. Sober communities are raw, messy, and life giving. It is impossible to imagine going it alone, not due to needing a “group” to dispense a particular dogma to, but for the reason that it is impossible to do the work without others.
Another commonality is accountability. Sponsor, sobriety couch, therapist, addictionologist, peer specialist, guru. The use of a mentor, teacher or someone who can walk alongside you though the recovery process can stabilize and center the newcomer. It can also prevent the disease of substance abuse from telling stories about what we are capable of and what will truly bring peace.
Overlooking The Differences
While the common ground mentioned seems palatable enough the differences are very personal. Powerless. Higher Power. Alcoholic. Addict. Dry. These alone are terms that can completely define one person’s sobriety journey to the point of fundamentalism. These terms are personal. They are powerful. Yet, they can be seen as not being global, inclusive or diverse. Passionate topics garner heartfelt opinions that create a divide when allowed. There is no way around it, only through it with an open mind. The new challenge in an ever-changing world is connecting how our story interacts with another.
Don’t be fooled by the hype, together we are stronger. The truth is in today’s world is that AA is not the only way. The answer as to whether that is a good thing is still being hashed out. There are many deeply personal reasons why people identify with one group or another. Human instinct can be to become very black and white, as if this were a criterion to long term recovery. It seems we are seeing evidence that this is not the case. The pack might agree If you are new to recovery trust your gut. Get curious. Explore your options like your life depends on it, because it is quite possible if you have found yourself here, it does. Here is a list of just a few of the resources that provide community, support and hope for the diverse needs of the women and men among us.
A Short List of Sobriety Support Groups:
Sober Mom Tribe
Alcoholic Anonymous, NA, CA, Al-Anon, etc.
Women For Sobriety
Add your own in the comments with an encouraging word or two for fellow brothers and sisters in recovery.